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smuggler's bible



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Named after the smuggling practice of hiding contraband inside large hollowed-out books, especially Bibles. See Modern Mechanix for a 1928 example. Apparently it began as a term of art amongst book dealers; see the 1966 citation.


smuggler's bible (plural smugglers' bibles)

  1. A book that has had some of its interior removed for the purpose of storing small items.
    • 1966, Joseph McElroy, A Smuggler's Bible, Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., →ISBN, page 327:
      Inside the Bible's cover is pasted a bookseller's label identifying the article: “A Smuggler's Bible. Used by smugglers on both sides of the Atlantic in the early nineteenth century to conceal small objects of value. Actually a mere box, this ‘Bible’ could be used to contain any assortment of goods the smuggler could get into it. ca. 1820 (?)”
    • 1989, Tom LeClair, The Art of Excess: Mastery in Contemporary American Fiction, University of Illinois Press, →ISBN, page 135:
      As the novel proceeds, various kinds of smuggling and allied dishonesties such as counterfeiting and forging are worked into the text, and by the end Brooke's manuscript is placed in a smuggler's bible on shipboard.
    • 1989, Tony Tanner, Scenes of Nature, Signs of Men, Cambridge University Press, →ISBN, page 207:
      A ‘smuggler's bible’ is a facsimile of the sacred book which contains nothing but can carry anything.
    • 2004, Irene Marcuse, Under the Manhattan Bridge, MacMillan, →ISBN, page 148:
      I filled him in on Simon and the vacuum press before I explained about my condolence visit the past Friday, and the tabs of Ecstacy in the smuggler's Bible.